Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Lynne K. Rieske-Kinney


American chestnut was once a crucial component of North American forests, but it was functionally eliminated by the introduction of the chestnut blight fungus. Chestnut is recently experiencing resurgence, but the introduced Asian chestnut gall wasp, a specialist herbivore, threatens chestnut recovery. I characterized this invasion and the interactions developing with host associates as the gall wasp spread in North America. Gall wasp dispersal is attributable to host plant distribution, effects of prevailing winds during adult insect emergence, and to topography. This knowledge may be useful to more accurately predict locations of future gall wasp infestations. Gall wasp invasiveness is also affected by its ability to modulate reproduction and reallocate nutritive resources for body maintenance and egg quality. The gall wasp can form galls of different shape and structure based on population levels and parasitism pressure, in order to optimize fitness. Simple, uni-lobed galls are formed when population pressure is low, and complex, multi-lobed galls are formed when gall wasp populations are high. A fungal plant pathogen, identified as Colletotrichum sp., infects galls and acts as an opportunistic entomopathogen, causing gall wasp mortality while sparing the parasitoid. A non-native torymid parasitic wasp has been deployed for biological control. Using a Y-olfactometer I demonstrated that a combination of olfactory and visual cues from chestnut galls and chestnut foliage is required for parasitoid adults to locate hosts. In addition, I evaluated interactions between the gall wasp and stem cankers on chestnut. Using potted Chinese chestnut seedlings with or without gall wasp or a native Nectria cankering pathogen, I found that the gall wasp has a negative impact on plant fitness, and a positive impact on fungal fitness. My work helps elucidate ecological mechanisms underlying the success of the exotic Asian chestnut gall wasp in North America, and adds to our knowledge base characterizing evolving ecological interactions between native and introduced species.